Clippings from the Vault

Published on: Author: Harriet Gaston Leave a comment

A staff post by Harriet Gaston, Communications Manager at The Hunterian.

Moving office can be almost as bad as moving house. It does, however, make you get round to tasks previously avoided.

One of the major tasks I had to undertake before we moved to our lovely new offices at Kelvin Hall was the sorting and digitising of our large collection of press clippings. Not only were there several filing cabinet drawers full in my office in the Hunterian Museum, there was also a selection of dusty box files that had lurked (ignored and sulking) in a corner, inherited from colleagues long retired.

After many weeks of sorting (and sneezing) my way through old newsprint, I was down to a still sizeable pile which went off for scanning.

A youthful Sir David Attenborough, photographed in the Hunterian Zoology Museum.

The clippings give a potted history of The Hunterian over the past 70 years, going back as far as 1946. Many cover the periods of excavation along the Antonine Wall, especially in Bearsden and the surrounding areas. Several articles in the post-war years were written by Miss Anne S. Robinson – Hunterian Curator, Dalrymple lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Glasgow and excavation director on a number of those digs.

Various Hunterian exhibitions, displays and awards are covered, as are periods of rumpus – from the surprisingly controversial appeal to purchase a Charles Rennie Mackintosh writing desk in 1979 (now happily located in The Mackintosh House) to the possible sale of the Whistler collection in 1980 (which also happily remains firmly part of our collections today).

These days, we collect clippings as a matter of course, scanning relevant articles, or simply converting online articles to pdfs for posterity. In the archive I found all kinds of handwritten notes attached to the yellowing newsprint by rusty pins and paperclips. Some random articles had been cut from the original pages, with notes perhaps naming the paper, but no date or page number.

I discovered some long lost publications – does anyone remember The Bulletin? And enjoyed some of the fascinating adverts and items of the day surrounding the relevant articles. In the Evening News of 24 August 1951, next to a report on the Roman excavations at Castledykes was a small piece about Princess Margaret, ‘the sweetheart of the British Empire’, on her 21st birthday. Above it was the weather outlook (showers, in case you were wondering).

Trying on Roman armour in the Hunterian Museum in 1983. Do you recognise this young Centurian?

There are also various photographs of jolly kids undertaking activities in our spaces (clearly crying out to become a ‘Where are they now?’ feature – watch this space) and a lovely picture of a youthful Sir David Attenborough beside some stuffed specimens in the Hunterian Zoology Museum circa 1986.

Of course, no review of a clippings archive would be complete without a roundup of top headlines. ‘Dinosaur with hang-ups’ (Glasgow Guardian, May 1988) actually referred to a new coat rail specially designed for the Hunterian Museum (and not dinosaur psychiatry). ‘Reach for the Rennie’s’ (The Guardian, October 1979) was a report on the afore-mentioned Mackintosh writing desk. My personal favourite has shades of Victor Meldrew, long before his time. ‘Well – Would You Believe It!’ (Evening Times, March 1956) covers the discovery of an ancient Roman well at Chapelton Farm in Bearsden.

And the weather that day? Sunny periods, hazy. Outlook – similar.


Reach for the Rennie’s The Guardian 27 October 1979

University’s Whistlers saved by appeal fund The Herald 18 September 1980

Roman shrine uncovered on Lanark farm Evening News 24 August 1951

Roman history, being learned the hard way The Herald 9 August 1983

Dinosaur with hang-ups GU Guardian May 1988

Scotland’s old beasties put on show The Herald 30 April 1986

Well – Would You Believe it! Evening Times 26 March 1956



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *